SHADOWLAND - FROM THE MILITARY TO THE COMIC BOOK PAGE

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Shadowland Cover The 19th century Baptist Preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said 'I believe that nothing happens apart from divine determination and decree. We shall never be able to escape from the doctrine of divine predestination -- the doctrine that God has foreordained certain people unto eternal life'. But what the f*ck does he know, huh? He was a religious nut! Anyway. You don't want to listen to him! You want to listen to my great creative mate, Tobias Elmore, instead. Here, check out this conversation I had with Tobias only the other day, whilst preaching to a couple of charlies about divinity.


Shadowland by Tobias Elmore & Ken Bastard


1) What are your own origins, Tobias? Plus what path in life did you take to get to where you are today? I'm a Navy brat, and a product of a hard working single mother, who just happened to do that work in the US Military. I'd moved around the country quite a bit in my life, meeting many different kinds of folks from different walks of life and different walks of cultures.

US Military
As I was born with a disability, and my mother was smart and practical, and made it clear to me early on I'd better learn to use my brain because, as far as making a future living went, manual labor wasn't exactly going to be my thing. It also became clear as I got a little older, and a little bit wiser, that being “African-American” in America was going to offer it's own sets of challenges, I'd have to think my way through as well.

Of course, rather than thinking of ways past these challenges, as a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or something else more practical, I knew from the jump I wanted to tell stories. It was more or less the only thing I ever really thought about doing in some form or another.

Went to college and decided to focus on TV production in the 'Broadcast Journalism' program. The other way was the more obvious 'Theatre program' (You can always tell a theatre background by the moderately more pompous way people in those programs spell “Theatre”). So basically, I learned to write, got some practice acting, trained how to use a camera, and got a taste of nonlinear editing. In short, I learned the important parts of TV and film production, yet pretty much nothing practical as I'd been earlier (and wisely) instructed by my mother.

It took a while, but I did manage to get work part time in video production about a year out of college and then full time once I moved back to my hometown of Birmingham, AL. Most of my work was producing half-hour programs for local TV with the occasional commercial or wedding thrown in to the mix.

Wanted to make -- what you'd think would be -- a short jump from that work to narrative story telling, but it wasn't that simple. Getting the determined, like minded personalities together to carve the time out of their lives to get that done is a task all by itself. Let alone going from concept, to filmed, edited, polished, final product. But again, I still wanted to tell my story so it occurred to me maybe I was in the wrong medium to start with. What were the other options?

Then I discovered “The Walking Dead”. 

The Walking Dead
2) What inspired you to create the comic ‘Shadowland’?   According to imdb.com “The Walking Dead” swarmed into society's consciousness Halloween, 2010. That means late in '09 I found the original comic book version online some place and started reading. Clearly it was awesome and captivating. And clearly after a few issues I thought to myself, “I could totally put this on TV and make it the most badass thing ever”. Clearly I had discovered a hidden gem. 6-8 months later I hear, “Coming soon to AMC... The Walking Dead...”.

“No! Son of a.... That was supposed to be mine”, I said to myself with a decent bit of righteous indignation. Yeah, so it's clear it wasn't actually mine, but... it was clear I had the instinct to pick a winner. So I thought of a TV pilot script I'd started probably a year and a half earlier, and just finished a couple of months before the show's premiere called “Shadowland”. I thought it could transfer well into graphic form and I had a plotted outline for about 8 or 9 episodes.

I kicked the idea around for a long time and late in 2011 I decided I'd take the chance and go with it.

3) In your own words how would you describe this story?   The story starts with Detective Ian Gates, waking up in the hospital with a head wound and no memory of how he wound up in the hospital. The rest of the world knows exactly what happened (or so they believe) which is why they regard him as a hero.

As the story goes, Ian came at just the right time to shoot and kill two dangerous psychopaths and save the life of a young woman... the Mayor's daughter. But, as he begins to put the pieces of his missing day back together, Ian can't help, but think that his memories have to distorted by his head injury. It has to because if it isn't... whatever it was he encountered... wasn't human. 

4) What song would you say best represents your comic and why?   The one that pops into my head is “No Church In The Wild” by Kanye West. As I hear it, it's a song about challenging common wisdom, what currently passes for morality and even challenging modern institutions that have the focus on doing good for for the vast majority, but doing favors for a small, privileged minority. As it moves forward I see 'Shadowland' as an allegorical journey underneath the surface of society to and seeing the forces that pull the levers of power for their own purposes.





James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman
5) If you could get any celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your ‘Shadowland’, who would you get, and why would you choose this particular person?   Toss up. Either James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman. I'd be making my, “Coming soon to AMC (or any other network interested... FX? TNT? A&E? Starz? Anybody?)... Shadowland.” And then we make up some kick ass voice over to emphasize the dark conspiracy afoot. Either Darth Vader tells you to set your DVR lest he find your lack of faith in this new program... disturbing. Or God tells you to watch. Watch or you're going to hell. You and I both know -- either way -- you're going to watch.

6) How did you hook up with your artist, Ken? Plus what have you learned about each other during your collaboration together?   I looked at a freelance professional site under graphics and illustrations. Ken Bastard was one of several that sent in sketches for how they'd lay out the first few pages of part of the script I sent. Ken's stuff had a moodiness I liked. It had a very shadowy noir feel, which is what I wanted. As we worked together, I learned he was very open to making changes and revisions, he worked hard give my vision some life. Hopefully he learned I'm good to my word even if I procrastinate some times.

7) Who would you cast in a ‘Shadowland’ movie if one was devised?   All the players haven't really been introduced yet, so I don't want to give too much away about the people we'll meet, but... If I have my pick of anyone then as the main character, Ian, I might go with Ryan Hurst.

He played Opie on “Sons of Anarchy”. Trim the beard down a bit and I think he'd work. He's a new comer to the big screen so I'll back him up with proven star power.

You'd see Denzel Washington as the main antagonist. Morgan Freeman would play an Internal Affairs officer constantly watching Ian. He seems OK, but you're not quite sure where he stands. Also look for Ron Perlman as Ian's gruff, hard nosed Lieutenant, Hutchins.

ShadowLand
Shadowland by Tobias Elmore & Ken Bastard
8) What was the first comic book you ever read? And do you still read mainstream comic books?   Inappropriately enough, I believe I was about 7 or 8 years old when my mom bought me the first edition of “The Punisher”. We were at the base exchange (mall more or less), she was busy, probably wasn't paying close attention because she was busy paying attention to important stuff. And, as we all know, that's the perfect time to ask your parents for something, when they're not paying attention to the guy with a skull on his shirt, jumping around with guns, shooting other dudes on the cover. Not her fault. Score one for me. It was Punisher and Spider-Man that were my favorites and that was interesting because when they crossed over they hated each other. Awkward. 

I like any thing that tells a good story. Read the first Sin City along with a few Alan Moore books, but plenty of stuff still out there to check out. I want to work on reading some of the graphic novels I've heard about for years like The Sandman and Preacher.

9) During your time as an writer, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   Well, it's always nice to get some positive reinforcement, so when the script for 'Shadowland' won the “Scriptapalooza” TV Writing competition in the first quarter of 2012, it a was a boost to the old confidence (I think they have 3-4 rounds per year).

I had already started on the graphic novel process by then, but getting an acknowledgment like that gave me a little hope I was on the right track.

Beyond that, the growing accessibility of equipment and software as far as producing video goes always gave me some hope that small projects could get done and done well. And to that end I always remembered it starts with the material. That meant in order to take advantage of the technology I needed the stories to tell. Heaven knows I procrastinate and have allowed too many long layoffs, but I never stopped thinking up material. Luckily I've managed to get a little bit of it on the page. Including the next 3 “Episodes” (as I like to call them) of this series.

SuperHeroStuff.com

Wow! Thanks for that my procrastinating friend  What you had to say I liked a lot, Tobias, and if I like it, I always encourage my readers to click on it. So what are you waiting for? Check out the Shadowland website today. Trust me. It's well worth the visit.